BEND, OR -- A multi agency effort to clean up encampments near Hunnell Road in Bend will soon get underway, in preparation for road construction. Cheyenne Purrington, Director of the Coordinated Houseless Response Office, says this will be the first use of the Encampment Resolution Pilot Project, modeled after successful efforts in other cities, "We’re really focused on providing a framework that ensures services are provided to individuals who are in locations slated for displacement." She adds, "Our hope is that through this process, we’re able to provide services, shelter options and hopefully housing navigation." Purrington tells KBND News the three-month effort will also help regional agencies practice partnerships and learn how to better address gaps in the system before Encampment Resolution is used elsewhere in Central Oregon.
City officials have declared the Hunnell Road area, from Cooley Road to the dead end, an “unsafe campsite” and plan to clear the area by March prior to work on the North Corridor Improvement Project. According to the city, police responded to 218 calls for service between August 15 and November 15 of this year, resulting in 43 criminal cases and 33 arrests. "It’s already unsafe, just by being on the public right-of-way. Large encampments, we know, see higher calls for service, more hospitalizations, more incidents of violence," says Purrington, "But then, with heavy equipment going up and down the road, it would actually pose a threat to life, even more significantly."
Purrington's office and Deschutes County Behavioral Health will work with other service providers to offer case management and help campers relocate. "We will essentially stand up an incident response. So the idea is to surge services and provide intensive case management, and meet people’s needs." But those needs vary, "I’ve personally spoken with a number of folks out there and they’ve identified that they already have a plan in place and just need support to implement that; and that’s often the case." She says the city may take other action, such as opening rooms at the Rainbow Motel.
Recent counts show around 65 campsites in that area now, down from a high of 100. Once the camps are cleared, the city will conduct final cleanup at the site before construction begins on North Highway 97.
file photo: Bend's Hunnell Road, June 2021. Courtesy Central Oregon Daily News.